Gravedigger sues over fall in cemetery on ‘bitter cold’ day

Nicky O’Brien says injuries left him out of work for months but rumours he fell in grave untrue

Nicky O’Brien, a gravedigger from  Windmill Heights in Wexford,  leaving the Four Courts on Thursday. Photograph: Collins Courts.

Nicky O’Brien, a gravedigger from Windmill Heights in Wexford, leaving the Four Courts on Thursday. Photograph: Collins Courts.

 

A Co Wexford gravedigger who claims he fractured his ankle after slipping on ice in a graveyard following a burial has sued for damages.

Nicky O’Brien told the High Court the incident happened at St Ibar’s cemetery in Crosstown and left him unable to work for about eight months after having reconstructive surgery.

He said he was walking away as mourners left the grave of an elderly woman, which had been covered to be filled in later, when his foot went from under him and he fell.

“I felt a crack in my foot. The path was slippy. It should have been salted and it wasn’t,” he said, adding that there was a rumour that he had fallen in a grave which was incorrect.

Mr O’Brien (56), Windmill Heights, Wexford has sued his then employer, Wexford Borough Council, as a result of the incident on January 8th, 2009.

Dangerous

He claims the council permitted the footpath to be, and remain, in a dangerous and unsafe condition and failed to warn him of the hazardous nature of the path. He also alleges failure to warn employees and the public of hazard on the footpath when, he alleges, it ought to have known it was unsafe.

As a result of the accident, Mr O’Brien says he has been unable to participate fully in normal sporting and social activities.

The council denies the claims and pleads Mr O’Brien failed to take care for his own safety and failed to exercise his common sense about the task in hand. It also pleads he failed to have any, or adequate, regard to the weather conditions.

Opening his case, Richard Kean SC said the conditions were “treacherous” at the time of the incident.

The ground was frozen, there was frost and ice, the graveyard was very exposed and it was their case the Council had not provided grit and salt which could have been spread on the paths at the cemetery.

James Flood, the caretaker in charge at the time of the incident, said he had previously asked for grit for a New Year’s Eve funeral but did not get it. On that occasion, mourners had to get out and push the hearse, he said.

Mr Flood said it was “bitter cold” on the day of the incident and that he saw Mr O’Brien falling and had called an ambulance.

The case continues on Friday before Mr Justice Kevin Cross.